Pharmacy Major Embraces Service-Oriented Profession

As a child, Pharmacy major Nusrat Tabassum knew she wanted to go into the health-care field. After her grandfather suffered a stroke, she witnessed firsthand the critical need for a comprehensive health-care team.

Nusrat Tabassum with fellow President Society members posing for photo
Nusrat Tabassum '23
  • Doctor of Pharmacy in Pharmacy
  • College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

As a child, Pharmacy major Nusrat Tabassum knew she wanted to go into the health-care field. After her grandfather suffered a stroke, she witnessed firsthand the critical need for a comprehensive health-care team.

“One of the most important people on the team is the pharmacist,” she recalled. “They’re kind of like the underdogs of health care, and often the most accessible.”

Now in the fourth year of the six-year Pharmacy program in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at St. John’s University, Nusrat wants to be that friendly and welcoming presence her family felt when her grandfather fell ill. Doctors, she said, can often be difficult to reach. Pharmacists are often a comforting presence for a family stressed out by an emergency.

“You can find a pharmacist right down the block,” she said. “Any pharmacist anywhere is willing to help.”

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic really brought the role of a pharmacist into greater focus. “It just intensified what we do and how accessible we are. We’re like the friendly face of health care.”

Nusrat was also impressed at the often encyclopedic knowledge of medications possessed by pharmacists she has encountered. “I am so intrigued by how medications can stabilize and improve a life. The whole process sparked my curiosity.”

Attending Accepted Student Day solidified Nusrat’s desire to attend St. John’s as she was able to discuss the pharmacy program with professors and perform laboratory simulations. “There was a room where you could actually make the capsules,” she explained. “I was pressing powders and realized this was something I could see myself doing after graduation. Coming to campus and seeing that I had the potential to grow into this role was really exciting.”

As soon as she arrived at St. John’s, Nusrat involved herself in campus life. After a very positive experience during first-year student orientation, she was inspired to become an Orientation Leader herself.

“I had two passionate orientation leaders who really opened my eyes to what was possible on campus,” Nusrat said. They have since become good friends.

“It felt really great to give back to students who were a little scared and confused like I was. It was nice to be a face for St. John’s for people who weren’t comfortable yet.”

Last year, Nusrat ascended to the role of Orientation Coordinator, a role with increased responsibility within the program.

Nusrat Tabassum

On the academic side, she is a member of several pharmacy-related organizations on campus, including Lambda Kappa Sigma, an international pharmacy sorority; the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, a national professional association that helps patients get the medications they need at an affordable cost; and the American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists, an organization dedicated to advancing the reach and practice of psychiatric pharmacy, while serving as the voice of the specialty.

Nusrat also works at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) as a pharmacy intern and is examining clinical pharmacy as a possible career path. “Prior to this role, I only really knew about community-based pharmacy. Being at MSKCC has shown me there are many different types of pharmacists.”

A member of the President’s Society—the highest honor society for students at St. John’s—Nusrat noted that the University’s Vincentian mission forms the underpinning for everything she has learned here. “Pharmacy is a service-oriented profession,” she said. “The foundation of the profession is giving back to your community. It’s about helping the people who surround you."